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Yorktown Schools Grapple With Unfunded Mandates

YORKTOWN, N.Y. — One-year injections, or federal money that lasts only temporarily to fund a mandated position, have forced the Yorktown Central School District to make up the money when the aid runs out.

While presenting the proposed instructional budget for the 2012-13 school year, Assistant Superintendent of Business Thomas Cole explained that the budget has to decrease, since the district isn't receiving additional state funds that run out after a year, despite the need to fund mandated positions. The total cost for instruction proposed for 2012-13 is a $383,000 decline from last year, or a 0.74 percent decrease.

“This is a common thread we have been developing throughout this entire budget cycle," Cole said. "All of the elements of the budget will have to decrease to pay for more unfunded or underfunded mandates.”

He cited Race to the Top, a program that aims to prepare teachers for the Annual Professional Performance Review, a new set of standards for districts. The program gives the district $27,000 over four years, but the district will spend $100,000 just in the first 12 months.

“The goal of the APPR is to improve instruction through team approach, and I don’t think anybody’s going to deny that there’s a lot that will go into this -- it’s all about school growth. But what we’re looking at with Race to the Top with significant concerns,” he said. “… the Race to the Top monies are obviously significantly insufficient to cover the cost. Embedded throughout instruction will be costs associated with bringing all of these new standards and all these new evaluative tools to fruition in our school districts.”

Cole said that in 2010-11 the district’s $42.7 million budget was subsidized by $600,000 of federal jobs opportunity money that came in for only that year. After that year, the district didn’t receive the money, even though the stimulus money paid for items that were mandated.

“When we look at the '11-12 projections and the '12-13 budget, we had to make up that $600,000 that fell off the table,” Cole said. “That was after having to make up the difference of the stimulus monies that came off the table in the previous year worth about $1.4 million.”

Any money the district did receive in the form of federal stimulus money wasn’t in addition to state aid, it was instead of, Cole said.

“The federal stimulus wasn’t money that was provided to school districts on top what we already had, it was used to plug  a hole in the reduction of state aid at the state level,” Cole said. “When that went away, we just kind of fell off the cliff for $1.5 million.”

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